Empty Lightsaber Hilts and More: An Interview with Great Lakes Saber Co
Star Wars fan Brent Murray launched the Great Lakes Saber Co Etsy Store [AFFILIATE LINK] in 2016. Although the custom lightsaber company currently specializes in empty lightsaber hilts and some custom commissions, Murray plans to bring back the Build-a-Saber 3D printed parts line and add sound sabers to the store in the near future.
SaberSourcing interviewed Great Lakes Saber Co founder Brent Murray about his custom saber company.
How did you become interested in designing and building lightsabers?
I’m in college studying to become a Mechanical Engineer and I’ve loved Star Wars since I was a kid. I grew up watching the original movies with my dad, and he passed on his original toys and collectibles to me. I had made simple lightsabers before, but the further I got in my engineering classes I decided to combine what I’d learned with my passion for Star Wars and lightsabers.
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I’ve always thought it was cool that the original lightsabers were made from objects found around the house or shop, like the original Luke saber being made from a Graflex flashgun and windshield wipers for the grips, and decided that it would be fun to try and create my own.
Can you describe your creative process when developing a new lightsaber design, from concept to completion?
I love building lightsabers so for me I get inspiration from everywhere. It may be watching a movie, TV show, or something else, but after I come up an idea of what I want the hilt to look like, I start to draw out the hilt in many forms and piece together different options. I know I’m happy with a hilt design when I can’t get it out of my head and I continue to sketch out the same hilt in my notebook.
After I come up with my design I start going through each piece and start listing everything I’d need to do to complete the saber, make sure I have the steps together, and that I believe I can pull it off. Then I start to acquire the parts and build the hilt, sometimes tweaking the design while building because I’ve thought of something better to do than what I’d originally planned on.
My hilts generally are representative of different characters, or just ideas that my customers or I come up with. Part of the process is naming my hilts, and I usually try to base the name around what the hilt is symbolizing or representing.
What are the similarities and differences between the first lightsaber you built and the lightsabers that you currently build?
The differences between my first lightsaber and the lightsabers I build now now are crazy. My first lightsaber I made was from an old vacuum hose attachment painted silver with paint markers. I used things like washers and old snowmobile turn belt for grips. I still have that lightsaber and it’s cool to look back and see how far I’ve come. Now I make steel hilts with etchings and sometimes fabric wraps. I’ve made custom pieces that are based on characters or games, etc.
In terms of similarities, I would say that I had similar ideas as I do now, such as grips and emitter designs, I’m just better at executing those ideas now. I have gotten a lot better at building hilts since then, and aim to continually improve as time goes on.
“My first lightsaber I made was from an old vacuum hose attachment painted silver with paint markers.” — Brent Murray (Great Lakes Saber Co)
What types of new products or designs do you have in development?
I’ll be offering Ready-to-Install hilts soon that will have retention screws and speaker holes. Everything will be ready to go, which will make installing a hilt much easier.
I’ll also be offering some hilts with an Economy Electronics Kit, like I have on my shop, installed so customers can buy a completed saber.
I’ll also be bringing back my Build-a-Saber parts that allow customers to build a 3-D printed saber from my various connectable parts. Build-a-Saber lets customers choose how they want their saber to look, choosing from numerous different options of emitters, grips, pommels, mid-sections, and blade plugs.
What are some of your favorite lightsaber features and design elements?
I love metal etching on hilts, and I think it’s a great way to make a hilt unique and add detail. I also really like thin-neck lightsabers, and look forward working on making a similar one in the future. Display lights, such as blinking LEDs are also a cool way to make sabers more futuristic looking, so that’s something else I really like.
Since Great Lakes Saber Co sells many empty hilts, what advice would you give to someone considering doing an electronics install on an empty hilt for the first time?
Ask the seller a lot of questions and make sure you are prepared to do what is needed to complete the install. For instance, my hilts that aren’t technically Ready-to-Install have rivets to hold parts together and in place. You would most likely have to remove those and then replace them by threading the holes and installing a bolt of the some size. These type of issues with DIY installs is exactly why I’ll be making most of my future hilts ready for install with the retention screws and everything ready for the installer.
What’s your favorite lightsaber from Star Wars Canon or Legends and why?
My favorite lightsaber would be Darth Maul’s lightsaber from the Phantom Menace. I really like design, but more so I love how customizable you could make your fighting style with it. He could use it as a single blade with a long grip, as a dual-sided hilt, or even two single hilts. I just really connected to this hilt because I could see myself having a hilt similar if I was in the Star Wars universe.
What’s next for you?
I bought a lathe a while back and I’m currently working on getting the hang of it. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to start offering hilts, or parts of hilts, that are machined on my lathe. I’m also working on programming my own sound boards, so after I finish and tweak them I’ll be able to start offering hilts with a custom installed sound board. I’m also starting to build my own blade tips, so blades could be offered in the future.
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Great Lakes Saber Co Etsy Store [AFFILIATE LINK]
Great Lakes Saber Co on Instagram
Great Lakes Saber Co YouTube channel
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COVER IMAGE CREDIT: Great Lakes Saber Co
Image of Reek Empty Lightsaber Hilt